UN chief urges Congo to lift protest ban to help elections

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is urging Congo's government to lift a ban on public demonstrations "to ensure a level playing field for all political actors" in December's presidential and legislative elections.

The U.N. chief says in a report to the Security Council circulated Monday that lifting the ban on protests would also "greatly contribute to the opening of political space" and allow the Congolese people "to freely exercise their political and civil rights."

Guterres says "deep-seated mistrust and suspicion" about the electoral process and the pace of progress in implementing confidence-building measures "continue to fuel political tensions."

Congo's President Joseph Kabila has been in power since 2001, and the country has simmered with tensions over the long-delayed presidential election, with critics accusing him of trying to cling to power.